<SiteLock

Begumpura: The Anarchist Commune

 

Pranav Jeevan P

pranav Begumpura ("land without sorrow") is a stateless, classless, casteless society imagined by poet Guru Raidas in his poem around 500 years ago in India. It was possibly the first imagination of an anarchist utopia in Indian literature. It became the guiding light for anti-caste intellectuals for imagining the society that they aspire to create.

 The Poem

 The regal realm with the sorrowless name:
they call it Begumpura, a place with no pain,
No taxes or cares, none owns property there,
no wrongdoing, worry, terror, or torture.
Oh, my brother, I've come to take it as my own,
my distant home where everything is right.
That imperial kingdom is rich and secure,
where none are third or second – all are one;
They do this or that, they walk where they wish,
they stroll through fabled palaces unchallenged.
Oh, says Ravidas, a tanner now set free,
those who walk beside me are my friends. [1]

What makes Begumpura different from the other ancient imaginations of utopia is the lack of a government or king, which is clear from the "no taxes", "no property". An absence of private property and government points to an anarchist utopia on the principles of self-organization of free individuals based on mutual aid and participatory democracy. The casteless and classless society points to social and economic democracy. "They do this or that, they walk where they wish,they stroll through fabled palaces unchallenged" shows that the members of Begumpura are free individuals without any oppressive and coercive hierarchical institutions to govern them. It also signifies the freedom of women from exploitation and assault. This is almost similar to the ideas that Paris commune of 1871, Revolutionary Catalonia of Spain during 1930s, Chiapas in Mexico and Rojava in Syria, tried to establish. Begumpura is an imagination against caste, class, state, Brahmanical hierarchies and patriarchy. A society living in harmony and free from all forms of discrimination. Guru Raidas's poems against untouchability, caste and social injustice, has long been a source of strength for the downtrodden to drive social change. Ravidas held caste discrimination as root of all social strife.

Anarchist social theory proceeds with the assumption that a better world is possible. That institutions like the state, capitalism, racism, casteism, and male dominance are not inevitable; that it is possible to have a world in which these things would not exist[2]. Anarchists believe that we need to prefigure the world we want to create so that we can decide on actions that can lead to such a world. Guru Raidas clearly conceived in his imagination what we seek to establish. He pre-figured a society where all forms of coercion vanish and people live with liberty and form voluntary associations based on democracy and mutual aid. It is high time that we revisit and re-imagine these visions, understand and imbibe the ideas behind them and work towards creating our Begumpura.

 References

[1] Hawley and Juergensmeyer, Eds., "Songs of the Saints of India," p. 32.
[2] D. Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, 2004.

~~~

 

 Pranav Jeevan P is currently a PhD candidate in Artificial Intelligence at IIT Bombay. He has earlier studied quantum computing in IIT Madras and Robotics at IIT Kanpur.

Other Related Articles

End Casteism in IITs
Wednesday, 05 May 2021
  The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), IIT Bombay It is amidst desolate cries and the numbing daily reports of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the nation, that... Read More...
In a time of public crisis, how important are elections to a democracy?
Monday, 03 May 2021
  Niharika Singh With the eighth and final phase in Bengal only now concluded, India conducted another local election amidst a collapsing healthcare infrastructure, administrative... Read More...
Babasaheb and Labour
Saturday, 01 May 2021
  Gaurav Somwanshi Today, let us understand Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's contribution to labour welfare in 10 examples. These are taken from a variety of sources, but primarily from BAWS volumes. The... Read More...
Understanding Cultural and Social Capital of Savarnas
Thursday, 29 April 2021
Pranav Jeevan P Why is the assertion of Bahujans branded as identity politics based on caste, but the savarna assertions are termed as “culture”, “tradition” and “merit”? The dominance of... Read More...
A Token Execution, Islamic Feminism and Toxic Masculinity
Wednesday, 28 April 2021
  Umar Nizar Grief manifested in ways that felt like anything but grief; grief obliterated all feelings but grief, grief made a twin wear the same shirt for days on end to preserve the morning... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

The Ruling Caste's changing priorities and the Farmer Unrest
Tuesday, 08 December 2020
  Anshul Kumar “History shows that the Brahmin has always had other classes as his allies to whom he was ready to accord the status of a governing class provided they were prepared to work... Read More...
Constitutional provisions and legal rights for protection and well-being of women in India
Thursday, 10 December 2020
  Adv Soniya Gajbhiye Women in any society play a very important role. In Indian society's context her role kept changing and evolving with the enactment of the Constitution and especially since... Read More...
The Karnataka anti-cow slaughter bill is against the poor
Tuesday, 15 December 2020
Dr. Sylvia Karpagam "If India's politicians had any connect with land and farming, they would understand the organic relationship farmers have with livestock, milk, manure and killing of cows. It is... Read More...
Should the proponents of public (government) schools celebrate Global Teacher Prize 2020 to Mr. Ranjitsinh Disale?
Friday, 11 December 2020
Tanoj Meshram Last week, Ranjitsinh Disale, a teacher from rural government Zilla Parishad (ZP) school in Solapur district, received Global Teacher Prize from Varkey Foundation. The prize which... Read More...
Racist mainland Indians were more terrifying than Covid
Friday, 18 December 2020
  Chongtham Rameshwori  My phone records 9:21 pm with the first picture of my favourite but unfortunate black T-shirt splattered with the thick pungent tobacco remains over my neck and... Read More...